The next book in Book Battle 2015 is one I picked up from my grandmother’s house called The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side of the Septic Tank by Erma Bombeck. I had a few different funny books in mind for this challenge but my grandma convinced me to give this one a try.
First published in 1972, this book became an instant best seller for over 11 months in the 70’s. I had never heard of the book before but have heard of Erma Bombeck. I remember my grandparents reading her syndicated column in the newspaper. Plus, when I opened the book a tardy slip of my mom’s from 1976 fell out. Apparently she overslept. Funny that my grandma should use that as a bookmark.
Upon reading the back I discovered that this novel is a fictional account of what happened when the Bombeck’s moved from the city to the suburbs. The blurb they had on the back and in the front of the book did make me laugh which is a great indication of what’s to come.
Has anyone else heard of this book or read one of Bombeck’s others?
One thing this book has already inspired me to do is create a new challenge, maybe for later this year, where reader’s are challenged to read books they pick up random places. I can’t say how many times I’ve been walking down the street and have paused at a box marked free with books inside, picked up books from coffee shops, or even picked up books from the discard bin at the library. How fun would it be to read some of those disparate books in a challenge? I think it should definitely happen.
Everything I Never Told You paints itself as a murder mystery but once the story starts to blossom and expand the real mystery isn’t quite what you anticipate.
At first this novel reminded me so much of The Lovely Bones it was ridiculous. It was nearly a carbon copy. Young teenage girl in the 1970s living in a small town suburb goes missing and is suspected murdered. Two parents break apart and the two remaining siblings are left to deal with the wreckage. Mom leaves the family and then comes back, dad sees dead daughter everywhere, while the youngest sibling remains nearly forgotten.
It wasn’t until about a little more than halfway through that the novel started to take a different course. It became much more of a family/emotional/coming of age drama than a mystery. And the drama revolved around Lydia, the suspected murdered sister. For me, the theme that stuck out most in the novel was a be careful what you wish for. Every member of the family ardently wished for something to come true, and it did. But that wish soon morphed into something wholly different and for some family members unbearable. The father James wishes to fit in so badly he picks a wife who he thinks would be a cookie cutter American wife. His wife Marilyn wants more than anything to be different from her mother so she picks James, a Chinese American professor. Lydia wants her mothers love and vows to do anything to get it. And Nath wants a version of what his father wants, acceptance. Each of them get exactly what they wanted but at a price. For some a tragic one. It doesn’t take long for each family member to realize that what they initially wanted wasn’t at all what they needed. It only isolated them instead of bringing them closer. And ended up culminated in tragedy.
I’m not sure if it was because this book was so hyped and I had such high expectations or if the book simply proffered itself as one thing and was something entirely different, but it took me awhile to begin enjoying this one. There were so many parallel’s to different books that it felt this was at first a retelling.
But once the author found her groove and hit the right note the book really did make me feel the emotions of the characters, especially Lydia. But it took her awhile. Each character is, in their own way, horrible and human. And it’s not until you really delve in the book that you see what drives them to do what they do.
Overall, this book wasn’t my favorite so far and that’s hard for me to say. I wanted to like this book so much more, but I just couldn’t get into it or shake the feeling of dejavu for the longest time.
Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015! A hint, it’s going to be a funny book next. Happy reading!
Next up in the Battle is Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. This is the author’s first novel and it has received some seriously spectacular reviews. I came across the novel while looking at the NPR book page, they have some amazing recommendations, and was so intrigued by the short summary I read there.
In essence, the novel is about the disappearance and murder of 16 year old Lydia Lee and the ways her family subsequently copes with their tragic loss. The Lee’s are a mixed race family, half white and half Chinese, who live in the 1970s in small town Ohio. With the death of their beloved daughter, the Lee family secrets come to the surface and need to be confronted.
I’m intrigued as to what these secrets could be and how it will affect this family and their community. I also like that this novel is different than most murder mysteries in the fact that it focuses on the family instead of the murder itself, much like The Lovely Bones and Songs For The Missing. I think it creates a much deeper connection between the reader and the characters when they can see the different coping mechanisms the characters employ and trudge through those feelings alongside the characters. While I do like murder mysteries and police procedurals, I’m also drawn to novels where the murder takes a seat behind a family’s attempt to come to terms with the loss.
I can’t wait to get started and delve into the secrets of mysteries of the Lee family. Stay tuned for the review. Happy reading!
The nostalgia factor for this book was through the roof. I deliberately made myself slow down and savor each page. The book brought me back to days of secretly reading behind the textbook I was supposed to be reading. Those good old elementary and middle school days.
The plot line was almost exactly as I remembered it. Molly has terrible dreams all through her childhood that get worse once she’s forced to take swimming lessons in order to graduate from high school. Apparently, according to my parents, to graduate from high school you used to have to swim a lap across the school pool. As the dreams and the anxiety get worse, Molly decides to head to Maine to visit her father and stepmother and avoid having to take additional swim lessons. But instead of running safely away from her problems Molly is forced to confront them head on when her bad dreams become a new reality. I’m not going to spoil the book denouement for you. You’ll have to read the book and enjoy it first hand.
Now, this book wasn’t quite as thrilling as I remember as a child, you can see the ending coming miles before you get there, but it’s a solid piece of YA fiction. The author does amazing foreshadowing and creates for actualized and fully developed characters. The atmosphere in the book is fantastic. It really adds to the suspense and growing sense of unease as the novel progresses. Who can resist a good ghost story.
The funniest part of the book for me was the author’s take on Californians, being a native Californian myself. It was a lot of New Age psychic stuff with a wink on the side of, oh you crazy Californians and your weird beliefs. It did make me smile. Apparently as a child I didn’t even notice because I don’t remember those scenes at all.
Overall, I am pleased to say that this is one book from my childhood that I can still enjoy as an adult. Pat on the back younger self for your great taste in literature, well sometimes.
Stay tuned for the next installment in Book Battle 2015! A hint, it’s a book by an author I’ve never read before. Can’t wait. Happy reading!
Since reading the Veronica Mars novel Mr. Kiss and Tell, I’ve been feeling nostalgic so I decided to read a favorite book from my childhood for this part of the Battle. The novel is Dreadful Sorry by Kathryn Reiss. I was totally obsessed with this book in elementary school and on through middle school. I must have read it at least 3 times over the course of a few years. I remember being so intrigued by the plot and the characters.
Essentially, from what I remember, the plot revolved around a girl named Molly who suffers from a crippling fear of water and drawing. She has terrible nightmares about something that happens in the past and must find what the connection is between herself and a girl that died many years ago in a different time and place.
Now I’ve always been a big fan of ghost stories and mysteries which is probably why this book appealed so much to me. I devoured R.L. Stein Fear Street novels, Christopher Pike, and Diane Hoh. Novelists that always kept you on your toes and created story lines that sent chills down your spine.
The only thing I hope is that the novel stands the test of time and that I’ll still enjoy it just as much as I did as a child, which is hard. Many of the other novelists have not stood the test of time. Things I loved as a kid I just scratch my head at now. Here’s to hoping this novel will not be one of those.
Happy reading fellow Book Battlers! Let me know what your favorite reads were as a child!
Mr. Kiss and Tell is the second novel in the Veronica Mars spin off books by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham. The plot centers around the brutal attack of Grace Manning, a character from season 2 of the TV show. The Neptune Grand, the hotel the girl was attacked in, hired Veronica to investigate the girl’s claims and decide what the culpability of the hotel was after Manning accused one of the staff of being her attacker. Veronica takes the case and is soon surrounded by misleading evidence and non-existent leads. The writing is thick with the dark, sardonic humor from the TV show and is intensely fun to read.
I found it difficult to stay objective while reading this book because I’m already a fan. I’m that ideal audience the book is seeking. The person who wants to know what happened to these characters after the show went off the air. I loved that the series brought in characters that had such a short shelf life on the show and expanded upon them. For me, this aspect has been the best part of the book series. Because the show ended so abruptly many plot elements were left dangling and the books have given the creators another outlet to tie up those loose ends. All of the characters have evolved from their time on the show and yet remain somewhat the same, still driven by the same desires and needs that fueled them throughout the series.
The actual case is solved very early on in the novel with the remainder of the book trying to figure out a way to catch the criminal. It does drag in places but the characters make up for the lack of a tight plot. Not too many twists and turns but serviceable as a mystery. I love that Veronica is still the same mix of idealism and spunk. She’s still a bit jaded but never strays from the fight. She’s like a tiny Phillip Marlowe in the present day world. And that’s really the reason fans are reading these novels is the powder keg character Veronica Mars, to see where she ends up and what changes are coming her way.
Overall, this was a fun read, especially for those who loved the TV series. It would be fascinating to hear from people who have never seen the show and read the books from a fresh perspective. There would be the real test.
Happy reading and stay tuned for the next read in Book Battle 2015!
Next up in the book battle is a Veronica Mars spin off books entitled Mr. Kiss And Tell. This is the second book in a new Veronica Mars series taking place after the events in the movie. One of my fellow book battlers lent me this book to read because I was having a hard time finding a book based on a TV show. There are just so many choices out there it’s hard to narrow down your focus.
I’m excited to start this book and take a little departure from more serious reading material into a little more guilty pleasure reading. Now I admit I was absolutely obsessed with this show when it was on the air in high school. I loved that it was a mix of Nancy Drew and Raymond Chandler combined into one snarky high school teen. I’ve always loved the mystery genre for it’s plotting and take on the seedier side of life. I like to kind of play my own detective and see if I can figure out the mystery before the detective in the book.
In college I took a class on detective fiction and it was amazing. It just opened up the world that I already enjoyed even more. I love the plotting structure, the red herrings, and the flawed characters. There’s something almost enchanting about a world where a person sets their mission to right all the wrongs. And Veronica Mars definitely did that. She was the self-proclaimed white hat of Neptune, CA, home of the wealthy and the famous.
I also read the first book in the series and loved it. The show ended so abruptly when it was on air that many of the characters never got to develop their way they were intended to. Now the books give Rob Thomas, the creator of the series, another vehicle to see his creation come back to life and deepen in different ways. It’s so much fun to see characters that had a short shelf life in the series pop up somewhere in the books. And most importantly, it gives the fans the fix they’ve been craving.
Happy reading and stay tuned for the final rating of this book. Maybe it will make it to the finals of Book Battle 2015!
Reading through Slouching Towards Bethlehem was like taking a journey through beloved sections of my home state. At times searingly insightful and at others nostalgic, this novel was breathtaking. I want to begin reading it again to find insights and nuance that I missed the first time.
The novel is composed of many articles, some short some long, that Didion wrote for various magazines during the 1960s. While the topics are varied, they all revolve around one centralized point; the chipping away of the glass encasing we put around beloved objects and periods to reveal the heart of the matter, the emotional core. Didion’s writing evokes many emotions in the reader and, in turn, exposes her emotions about the topics she writes. She does not shy away from complex and intense emotion but embraces it. She looks deeply into the movements of her time to show not only a changing America but a changing populace. Those insights into the chancing populace are still pretty darn relevant too. She looks at the Summer of Love in Haight Ashbury in the 1960s from various angles, which for me was incredibly fascinating and a little disturbing. She definitely looked at the less popular viewpoint of the Summer of Love.
My favorite article, however, was one she wrote about her hometown of Sacramento and of the Central Valley. Being from the Central Valley myself, it was incredible to see her describe a Valley I was never able to experience. I am of the generation from the changed Valley. The Valley that has grown into something it can’t quite handle. Not just focused on agriculture anymore but not sure where else to go.
Didion writes with so much pathos and honesty it’s hard not to fall under her spell. You travel right along with her as she hops from the sunny California coast to the busy streets of New York. She cracks the shell of a city and a movement and gets at what’s underneath it all. What propels it forward or has stopped it in it’s tracks. She exposes the truth in a way that’s hard to deny even if it might be hard to accept. It’s easy to see why some have called her the master of prose. She writes with command, poise, and honesty making her instantly relatable. I think that her honesty is what allows her to see into the hearts of various people and look at them in a way that shows who they really are and not just what they are trying to present themselves as.
Stay tuned for the next book in Book Battle 2015. A hint, it’s inspired by a popular TV show.
Happy Reading all!
Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a book set in California. There are so many to choose from it was hard at first to narrow down the options. But eventually I settled on Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The novel is a compilation of her essays from the 1960s that describe some of the movements going on at the time as well as relevant news stories and issues. I have to say I’m pretty darn excited to start reading this book. Didion is supposed to be the voice of her generation, and I’m all for that. I love reading about the tumultuous 1960s, the decade that forever changed the landscape of the US.
I’ve never read anything by Joan Didion before and can’t wait to start with the book that many think is her best. Perusing the book a bit, the articles are spread out into three different parts seemingly based on subject matter. Now I did peek and read the prologue and so far I love the way she writes with so much command and style. And she threw a shout out to Yeats which has my inner literary nerd jumping up and down in excitement.
Happy Reading fellow Book Battlers!
Everything Is Illuminated is a novel about the power of memory and the fine line between fiction and reality. I didn’t really know what to expect when I opened the pages of this novel. I hadn’t really heard all that much about it and know no one who has read it before. All I knew was that it was made into a movie, which I still have yet to see.
The novel unfolds slowly peeling back layers and layers of protection from each character until their ultimate truth can be revealed. The first few chapters had me laughing out loud. Alex plays the lovable, bumbling idiot to perfection. The Ukrainian family is full of delightful quirks, like a grandfather who believes he is blind and must have a seeing eye bitch named Sammy Davis Junior Junior. But it’s not until you delve further into the novel that you realize those quirks are guards each characters puts up to present a chosen image of themselves to the world so that they may remain protected.
The theme that hit me the most throughout the novel was one of fiction vs. reality. You never really know what’s true and what the character has invented based on their facade. Every character is unreliable and creates an illusion of the way they see things or the way they want others to perceive them. Beginning with Brod and continuing on through, each character manufactures and invents a history for themselves to blur the lines between fiction and reality. Brod often confuses the books she reads with her real life events to the point where she doesn’t know what is true and what is make believe. Jonathan creates a whole history for his ancestors that is in part truth and in part added embellishment in the exchange of letters between him and Alex. Even Alex creates a persona for himself that is more fantasy than it is reality. The whole book itself is also a blur of fiction and reality. Upon some research, I found out that the actual author did go to Ukraine in search for family connections, just as in the book, but didn’t find what he was looking for so he decided to invent this alternative history in narrative form.
Everything Is Illuminated is a powerful book about memory and loss and the ways we as humans cope and struggle to make sense of things.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in reading literary fiction that you have to analyze and read between the lines to figure out. Now I must find the movie so I can watch it! Fingers crossed it’s on Netflix.
Stay tuned for the next book in Book Battle 2015. I’m oscillating between two categories so hopefully I will be able to make up my mine soon. Happy reading!